“Dual engine loss at 2,800 feet followed by immediate water landing with 155 souls on board. No one has ever trained for an incident like that. No one.”
“Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger” (Tom Hanks) and his US Airways co-pilot “Jeff Skiles” (Aaron Eckhart) meet for the first time in the cockpit of their Airbus 320-D routine domestic flight from La Guardia airport en route to Charlotte.
The flight would turn out to be anything but normal of course, in a story known to almost everyone on the planet. As Sully’s character states in the film “I’ve delivered a million passengers over 40 years in the air, but in the end, I’m gonna be judged on 208 seconds”
Experiencing a bird strike almost immediately after take off, both engines are disabled, leaving the pilots with nowhere to go, despite desperate attempts by Air Traffic Control, to make runways available.
Deciding landing in the frigid Hudson is the only practical option, Sully executes a controlled water landing, not a crash as he patiently points out. All the crew and passengers are rescued apart from a few “minor” injuries.
Of course in America nothing is true until proven by committee and doubts start to mount as to whether landing on water was the best option, could the plane have made it to any of the offered runways, simulations suggest it could?
This element of doubt and the impact especially on the captain, is the method by which director Clint Eastwood has managed to open out a 208 second event into a 90 minute movie.
Also by combining alternate scenarios into the screenplay, this enables audiences to see what catastrophic events could have occurred, if the wrong choices had been made. Of course it also makes for more interesting viewing, although remains a dubious choice bearing in mind earlier 9/11 events.
Despite some effective CGI recreations and augmented with “real” water based plane evacuation scenes, the main special effect is Tom Hanks. Yet again managing to bring his every-man persona to a role, no “A list” actor does it better.
Hanks is especially effective in scenes after the “landing” as the character realizes the magnitude of the situation. Not knowing whether all souls are safe, his facial expressions and inner turmoils are effects which cannot be created in a computer.
Eckhart and Laura Linney provide solid support as co-pilot and Sully’s wife respectively but the while film rests on Hank’s shoulders and he does not disappoint.
Like Titanic, this is a film with a well known defined ending, so the journey counts, in this case only 208 seconds long. Eastwood attempts to generate drama by initially introducing the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) as the villain asking tough questions and second guessing the decisions made. Bearing in mind their role is to ensure public safety, whether the portrayal is entirely fair or factual is open for debate.
As realistic a recreation as you could wish for, a fitting tribute to the captain and team who carried 155 people to safety in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Eastwood coaxes another excellent performance from Hanks in a riveting, albeit short film.